See Rock City

See Rock City

Friday, August 1, 2014

Roanoke, Alabama

Downtown Roanoke, Alabama
Downtown Roanoke, Alabama

Roanoke is a city in Randolph County, Alabama, United States.

Roanoke is served by a weekly newspaper, The Randolph Leader.  As of the 2000 census, the population of the city is 6,563.


The city is served by Mayor Mike Fisher since 2009.

Roanoke has three schools served by Roanoke City Schools: Knight Enloe Elementary (K-3), Handley Middle School (4-8), and Handley High School (9-12). On December 1, 2011, The Handley Tigers won the AHSAA Class 3A State Championship.

Notable People:

  • Admiral Edward A. Burkhalter - Chief of Naval Intelligence; Director of Intelligence Community, CIA
  • Wilkie Clark, African-American entrepreneur and civil rights activist
  • Jake Daniel, former Major League Baseball player
  • Horace Gillom, former Cleveland Browns player, who contributed to the evolution of punting by standing further back from the center than was normal at the time
  • William Anderson Handley, former U.S. Representative
  • Fred Hyatt, former Auburn University and professional football wide receiver
  • Odell McLeod, American country-gospel singer, radio entertainer, and songwriter
  • Stan O'Neal, former chairman and chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch
  • Clare Purcell, former Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and the Methodist Church
  • Ella Gaunt Smith, American doll manufacturer

Doll House Lady Entrepreneur:

Ella Gaunt Smith, lady entrepreneur who began to manufacture dolls from her home (called the "doll house") that were widely owned across the USA. The dolls used innovative designs and were indestructible; and included both black and white dolls.

Ella Gaunt Smith (born April 12, 1868 – April 2, 1932 in Roanoke, Alabama) was an innovative American doll manufacturer.

After graduating from LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia, and marrying Samuel Smith, Ella began working as a seamstress. She spent years repairing broken bisque dolls brought in by her neighbors and experimenting with ways to produce sturdier dolls. She eventually turned to doll manufacturing full-time, selling mostly to friends and neighbors. After experiencing early success she exhibited her dolls at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, winning a Grand Prize for Innovation and helping establish a nationwide market for her product. She received a patent for her design in 1905.

From 1899 to 1932 her back-yard factory employed 12 women and produced 8,000-10,000 dolls per year. The dolls, known as Ella Smith dolls or Alabama Babies were also sometimes called "Roanoke Indestructible Dolls" because of their heavy cotton frame and stout plaster of Paris heads. It was often said that a truck could drive over one of these dolls without damaging it. The price at the time for an Ella Smith doll ranged from $1.15 to $12.15 depending on size, clothing and hair. A tenth of her dolls were painted black to resemble African American girls. She was likely the first manufacturer to market dolls based on people of African descent in the Southern United States.

Smith was known for working with a hymn-singing parrot perched on her shoulder. At a time when she was planning to expand her operation, a train wreck caused the disastrous loss of many orders. At the same time a lawsuit arising from a bad business deal cost her a large settlement. Mrs. Smith, who suffered from diabetes and kidney disease, died in 1932.

Ella Smith dolls, especially the black-skinned dolls, are highly collectible. A Randolph County Historical Museum, to be located in the 1940 Post Office building in Roanoke will tell the story of the Ella Smith Doll through documents and artifacts.

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